07/23/01
Kids and Yoga
    by John Cech

Have you ever watched a baby, once he's learned to sit up, how he sits with beautiful posture, keeping his back perfectly perpendicular to the floor, and his legs perfectly flat on the floor, and then how he effortlessly raises one and then both of his feet, and then reaches to grasp them both in his hands, and then holding that position for a minute, then another, and then suddenly laughing, the most natural, unrestrained, full-bodied laugh.

I think someone, three or four thousand years ago spent a lot of time observing young children and the unified fludity of their movements, and this inspired the body-mind-spirit practice that we today call Yoga. You know, that discipline that looks impossible for anyone over the age of nine to perform. It's not surprising that one of the leading, twentieth-century practitioners of this ancient discipline, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is credited with having launched our modern forms of Yoga, developed his approaches in a school that he set up for young boys in India the 1930s. Teaching adults came later. Today, though, Yoga is largely practiced by adults in this country, and we have virtually ignored it's important connection to childhood and to children and thus have forgotten why one of its basic postures, its point of supreme rest is called "embryo."

In the West, and especially in the U.S., many of us are busy punishing ourselves in gyms and on jogging paths -- and many of us subscribe to the notion that we cannot condition our bodies properly without elaborate equipment or highly aggressive, highly stressful forms of work-outs -- "no pain, no gain." But imagine what it might be like if every child learned, from Kindergarten throughhigh school, a series of exercises that were non-competitive, non-judgemental, that were designed to enhance breathing and balance, posture and flexibility; and that ultimately were intended to teach simple techniques that relieve stress and pressure? And what if kids did these exercises for a half hour or so every day, slowly, quietly, calmly, restfully, thoughtfully -- with focus on building an inner, personal, ungraded or machine tested harmony between body, mind, and spirit? Imagine how that, just possibly, might change everything.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:25 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."